Hidden in plain sight
I think I could be forgiven for thinking that this Sunday’s gospel (Luke 21:5-19) is pretty heavy. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who feels that way. Just prior to the events that will lead to his crucifixion (which is scary enough on its own) Jesus sends up some warnings and predictions that feel rather ominous: the destruction of the temple, famines, plagues, nation rising against nation, earthquakes…
You’ve gotta think that his disciples and followers would have been kinda freaked out by all of this. “Wait, what? He told us to follow him and he’d make us fishers of people!” That didn’t sound so bad then. But now he’s telling them that things are going to get ugly. Oh, and by the way, you’re likely going to be arrested, persecuted, and maybe even put to death.
Wow, Jesus. That’s some solid encouragement, there. Thanks for that.
We know that we were never promised that following him was going to be easy. But there’s a pretty significant difference between “not easy” and “by the way, you might die for this.” And our human nature means that when Jesus suddenly lays it all on the line like this, it’s really easy for us to get caught up in the negativity.
Part of the problem is that our brains are evolutionarily hardwired to keep us alive. Their job, right from the days of our earliest ancestors, is to constantly scan the horizon for signs of trouble, because there’s a good chance that that trouble just might kill us. And our brains have gotten so good at spotting the bad things, the scary things, the “by the way, this might kill you” things that they’ve also gotten really good at not paying attention to the good things. So much so that we’re prone to miss them.
Too often, when we hear this gospel passage, we are so inclined to focus on the dire things Jesus is saying that we miss the part where he tells us not to worry. (Twice.) That message of reassurance isn’t buried or cryptic, but it may as well be, given our propensity to focus on the bad stuff.
And isn’t that the way it seems to go in life, too, sometimes? In the midst of all of the things that really seem to get our attention because they’re so negative – finances, job stress, illness, politics, tension between nations – there’s always a message of reassurance from Jesus. But we have trained ourselves so well to watch for danger that his message is often hidden in plain sight.
As we draw ever closer to the end of the liturgical year, may we learn to direct our focus away from that which could harm us. Instead, may we keep our eyes on Christ the King, who speaks a message of hope and of comfort in the midst of all the turmoil and chaos that life has to offer, as he reminds us that “Not a hair of your head will perish.”
By Darcie Lich
Vocation Team – Oblate Associate